This evening on Prime Time (13th November 2012) a report on the rise of TB, the great and feared disease that haunted the land, rich and poor alike, has coincided with my reading of the very enjoyable autobiography “To Cure and to Care” of Dr James Deeny, the Chief Medical Adviser to the government was appointed in 1944 and serving until 1962 (there were several leaves of absence to the WHO).
He spearheaded the national campaign to eradicate the curse of TB from the lives of the people. Ironically according to Deeny this promise was made by him in frustration to the media and even though he was a civil servant who had committed the politicians to a campaign he was fully backed to proceed. This they did, utilising new technologies and drugs and leading a massive Sanatoria building programme, the money from the Sweepstakes made most of it possible in what were very difficult times.
Deeny was a doer, he saw a problem, he understood his job was to end these problems and he lived up to his public duty.
Tonight Prime Time showed that TB is coming back, to be found again in the most vulnerable and poor in our society. Today we have a health service incapable in moving rapidly to stamp out TB’s return not viewing it as a public health priority. An over centralised health service attempting to control and direct all the minutiae of the service has lost focus of the big picture.
TB was dealt with over sixty years ago by people who understood that those affected by TB needed better housing, good food, stability and compassionate health care. Prime Time highlighted that all these services have not been communicating and acting together to tackle the rise of TB. This wouldn’t cost a lot to deal with but acting early will save a lot, both for the public purse and people’s quality of life. These failures are inexcusable.
Deeny and his ilk were good people just doing their job – ordinary heroes, there is no reason why the good people in the health service today can’t come step forward and stop TB before it starts.